Grand affair

ATLANTA — In October, the High Museum of Art will launch an unprecedented three-year partnership with the Musee du Louvre that will bring hundreds of works of art from Paris to Atlanta.

Through the “Louvre Atlanta” partnership, the High will present a series of long-term, thematic exhibitions featuring masterworks from the Louvre’s collections, many of which have never been seen in the United States.

The central exhibition of the first year, “Kings as Collectors,” will feature three works acquired during the reigns of Kings Louis XIV and Louis XVI, including two very special masterpieces from the Louvre’s collection: Raphael’s Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione and Nicolas Poussin’s Et in Arcadia Ego. The exhibition will be on view from Oct. 14 through Sept. 2, 2007, in the High’s new Anne Cox Chambers Wing, which will be devoted exclusively to “Louvre Atlanta.”

Two shorter-focus exhibitions featuring drawings and decorative items from the royal collections will complement “Kings as Collectors” with consecutive presentations throughout the year. On view concurrently with “Kings as Collectors” through Jan. 28, 2007, “The King’s Drawings” will bring together approximately 60 works from the Louvre’s extensive holdings. More than two-thirds of these works have never been exhibited in the United States. From March 3 through Sept. 2, 2007, “Decorative Arts of the Kings” will showcase luxury items manufactured for the Royal Families and their court, none of which have traveled to the United States since they entered the Louvre’s collection.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity to share many remarkable masterpieces from the Louvre with audiences from throughout the Southeast,” said Michael E. Shapiro, Director of the High Museum of Art.
Over the course of the partnership, “Louvre Atlanta” will trace the history and development of the Louvre from the 17th century through the present. The three exhibitions in the first year will focus on the genesis of the royal collection of the pre-Revolutionary Regime — the works collected by the Kings before the Louvre was converted from a palace to a museum during the late 18th century — and that make up the heart of the Louvre’s collections. The central exhibition, “Kings as Collectors,” will be composed primarily of paintings, sculptures and antiquities from the collections of Kings Louis XIV and Louis XVI, the two most important collectors of the 17th and 18th centuries. “Kings as Collectors” will feature paintings by Rembrandt, Velazquez and Murillo, as well as a group of sculptures that allow for a better understanding of Louis XIV’s dual role as collector and patron.

At the center of the exhibition will be a special presentation of Raphael’s Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione, one of the top treasures from the Louvre’s permanent collection. The portrait has never left Paris to travel to the United States, according to the Louvre’s records. Admired over the years by art historians and artists alike – including Rembrandt and Rubens, who produced their own studies of the painting – Raphael’s portrait of the famous humanist embodies the same ideals of casual grace, or “sprezzatura,” that Castiglione himself advocated in his famous work, The Book of the Courtier.

On Oct. 7, the High will host “Raphael, Castiglione and European Court Culture,” a day-long interdisciplinary symposium that will include discussion by internationally recognized scholars on Italian Renaissance art and the art of Raphael.

Raphael’s portrait will be replaced by another Louvre treasure, Nicolas Poussin’s Et in Arcadia Ego. Recalling the works of Raphael and the Renaissance masters in subject matter and style, Poussin’s masterpiece is considered to be the defining example of French classicism.

Opening concurrently with “Kings as Collectors” on Oct. 14 is “The King’s Drawings,” which will provide an overview of the formation of the royal drawing collection assembled during the reigns of Kings Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI.The exhibition will showcase masterworks from major early private collections, such as Eberhard Jabach and Pierre-Jean Mariette, which entered the royal collections in the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as works by major French artists who served the crown, such as Le Brun, Boel, Mignard and Coypel. Other featured artists will include Grunwald, Durer, Rembrandt, Rubens and Watteau. A highlight of the exhibition is Raphael’s Head of an Angel, which was a study for the famous Vatican fresco, The Expulsion of Heliodorus.

“Decorative Arts of the Kings,” on view March 3 through Sept. 2, 2007, will feature decorative arts commissioned for the courts of Kings Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI, and will explore works that convey the royal and princely tastes for the decorative arts during the last 100 years of the Ancien Regime. These works also show the dexterity and excellence of the French artisans in the royal factories, which were largely subsidized by Louis XIV and his two successors. The presentation includes fine examples of furniture, tapestry, ceramics and silver by manufacturers such as Les Gobelins and Sevres, and artists such as Germain and Auguste, whose influence can still be seen today.

The second year of “Louvre Atlanta” will consider the Louvre’s collection growth and development during the Napoleonic reign and the Enlightenment, when there was an increased interest in ancient art and archaeology. The central exhibition will feature masterpieces from the founding cultures of Western civilization and will include works from the Louvre’s Egyptian, Near Eastern and Greco-Roman antiquities departments.

The second year will also include a exhibition presenting the work of Jean-Antoine Houdon, whose portraiture included some of the prominent intellectual and political figures of the time, such as Diderot and Voltaire, as well as our founding fathers, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. A second exhibition will reassemble for the first time an important and influential collection of Greco-Roman and Egyptian antiquities that were installed by the Empress Josephine at Malmaison, her residence located on the outskirts of Paris.

The third year of “Louvre Atlanta” will consider the Louvre of today and tomorrow. Exhibitions under development for this year will explore the impact of the Louvre’s collections on the art world today.
High Museum of Art

The High Museum of Art, founded in 1905 as the Atlanta Art Association, is the leading art museum in the Southeastern United States. With more than 11,000 works of art in its permanent collection, the High Museum of Art has an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American art; significant holdings of European paintings and decorative art; a growing collection of African American art; and burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art, photography and African art. The High is also dedicated to supporting and collecting works by Southern artists and is distinguished as the only major museum in North America to have a curatorial department specifically devoted to the field of folk and self-taught art.

The High’s Media Arts department produces acclaimed annual film series and festivals of foreign, independent and classic cinema. In November 2005, the High opened three new buildings by architect Renzo Piano that more than doubled the museum’s size, creating a “village for the arts” at the Woodruff Arts Center in Midtown Atlanta.

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